Although we may claim as Americans that we live in the land of the free, we are completely and inescapably trapped by our consumerist society. We are bombarded by advertisements over three thousand times a day from various mediums, which not only heavily influence our decisions in regards to what products we purchase, but these advertisements also distort our perception of reality. Whether it is from subliminal messaging to manipulate the unconscious or intrusive market research to analyze what exactly will grab the consumer’s attention, the corporations behind these advertisements are driven by greed to cross moral boundaries for the sake of making a profit.
From the perspective of the corporations that advertise in the media, we are born to spend. Companies strive to create brand loyalty from infancy so that children can become lifelong consumers of their product. There are various strategies that companies utilize in order to generate brand loyalty from children. An example of this would be Disney licensing a beloved cartoon character to McDonalds to transform into an enticing toy for a Happy Meal in the objective that the child will associate the love of the character with the fast food chain. In the year 2001, McDonald’s spent over 1.4 billion dollars worldwide on direct media advertising.
In a study conducted by Morgan Spurlock from the documentary Supersize Me, first grade students could all easily identify company figureheads such as Ronald Mcdonald or Wendy, but none of them could recognize historical figures George Washington and Jesus Christ. The reason why companies such McDonalds devote so much money and resources to advertise to children are because children have a $700 billion influence on adult spending. Check it out in the video below!
Instead of companies merely presenting the pros and cons of their product in their advertisements, a vast majority of advertisements are designed to manipulate the consumer by sending the message that we are “lacking in some fundamental aspect.” One advertising executive exclaimed that “what makes this country great is the creation of wants and desires, the creation of dissatisfaction with the old and outmoded”. As a society, we have been told by advertising that who are and what we have is not good enough, therefore, we must buy products to compensate for what we are lacking.
Between the years 1997 and 2007, there was a 457% increase in the amount of money spent on cosmetic surgeries in America. Advertisers thrive on holding up an unrealistic standard of beauty in order to estrange the mass majority of the population into feeling incompetent. The contrast between how the typical model looks in a magazine spread to the appearance of the average person is tremendously differentiated. If advertisements began to feature models who more closely represent the appearance of the average American, the consumer may be trapped into thinking that she is beautiful and competent just the way she is (gasp!).
Although we inevitably cannot escape from advertisements in the media, it is vital that we are cognitively aware of the effects that our consumerist society has on our thoughts and actions. Not only must we refuse to internalize the skewed messages we are receiving from advertisements, but we must also strive to not blindly purchase our products solely based off of brand recognition. One can become a more informed and powerful consumer by viewing advertisements with a critical eye rather than allowing ourselves to be mesmerized by the message.